After Thanksgiving, I was grocery shopping and there, in one of the magazine slots at the checkout register, was a single 8” x 10” booklet from “LIFE” (an imprint of Time Home Entertainment, Inc.) with a painting of a face of Jesus Christ that was powerful, nearly as large as the cover. At the top of the page was printed, “JESUS,” and at the bottom, “Who Do You Say That I Am?” I am somewhat jaded about Christian materials and handouts because of my non-militant stance—to me He is the Prince of Peace—not the God of Separation, Judgment and War. (To be fair, in the Gospels, Jesus is quoted as saying, I come not to bring peace; I come to bring dissension.) Said to be misguided, I believe God wants us all home, not just one group of chosen people, race or members of any particular church.
Yet, I picked it up and thumbed through it. It was high-quality work and appeared to be a good effort to show his life, with some written reactions to him from people who were there, some historical perspectives, and to attempt to explain why he had to die and be resurrected. It gave some history of the period and showed many artistic portrayals of him and those close to him, interesting graphics, and photographs that reflect how similar the area is today to what it was 2000 years ago. The writing, apparently a compilation of editors, pulled me in. I put the $13.00 booklet on top of my purse, which was in the child-seat area of the cart.
As I loaded my groceries onto the belt, a voice from behind me said, “That looks like an interesting book.”I turned and smiled. Having been required by Life to give up many things I have wanted, as in, “Here, why don’t you take it,” I looked at the booklet, then her, and said, “Oh, I’m sorry; it was the last one.”
“That’s all right,” she said. “I’m sure I can find it at the magazine stand.” She and the man she was with both smiled, enigmatically, at me. Was my response to her comment strange? Was it a letting-go test I failed? Had they read it and knew what I it contained? I couldn’t figure it out, but I have learned that when these kinds of encounters take place, some Higher Hand is at work. I brought the book home and began to read it.
I love this interesting and even-handed book, though I’m not finished. Perhaps it, too, will end with an explanation for why God doesn’t love all of us humans. We’ll see. But I was particularly struck by the following paragraph from page 69:
Peter A Bien, professor emeritus at Dartmouth College . . . . said during an interview with LIFE, “Jesus, to succeed, had to choose martyrdom. He had been a failure in all sorts of human enterprises. One was to convert everybody to love, to turning the other cheek. He was an abysmal failure at that. He was also a failure in His more militant role, scourging the moneylenders and so forth. He changed nothing. So, basically, the only power he had at the end was the power of abdication. It’s very, very important that Jesus chooses to die. That He wants to die. He links with this universal process—pure Spirit, God—rather than try to resist it or pretend it does not exist. By abdicating, He paradoxically achieves a most spectacular success of integration. By willing His own crucifixion, with Judas’s help, He brings into the service of good the most horrendous of the devil’s instruments, death itself. All who came after Him would see what had happened, and would know what the lesson is.”
I know Christmas Day is a celebration of the birth of Christ, but this is the message that’s been on my mind and heart. Merry Christmas to those who practice the Christian faith and the warmest of holidays to those who practice another. Perhaps Jesus Christ is whoever we each most want Him to be. For me, He is God and man, Forgiveness, Love and Light.
P.S.—I turned as I pushed my grocery cart away from the checkout stand and the couple was still smiling, still enigmatically, at me. Perhaps there is more to this story to come.